An initial inquiry has found evidence of negligence by the China Gezhouba Group Corporation or CGGC, the contractor in charge of the crane that dropped a concrete girder on a passing car in Dhaka’s Uttara and killed five people.
Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary ABM Amin Ullah Nuri made the statement at a media conference on Tuesday afternoon.
“According to the initial investigation report by the probe committee, the contractor was negligent and careless,” he said. “There wasn’t supposed to be any work on the project yesterday, but the contractor was doing so anyway.”
A girder lifted by a crane under the government project in Uttara came crashing down on a passing car, killing five members of a family inside the vehicle on Monday.
Two other members of the family, a newly married couple, were rescued from the crushed vehicle and sent to the hospital after the accident occurred around 4:15pm in front of the Paradise Tower on Jashimuddin Road.
Later in the evening, Nuri said the government formed a three-strong committee to investigate the incident.
The initial report from the panel came on Tuesday, the secretary said.
"We have received a preliminary report on the main point of our investigation and it will take two more days to get the final report," Nuri said. The investigators gave four reasons.
“Meanwhile, construction supervision consultant’s team leader Mr Tick said that the girder was not scheduled to be moved on Monday as it was National Mourning Day, a public holiday.
“According to the consultant, the work was on hold yesterday. The work of each girder segment is conducted through the consultant. The accident occurred while moving the second box girder segment after the first one.”
The secretary continued, “Negligence of the contractor firm is the reason, it was not supposed to work on a holiday. However, it had no work plan.”
Highlighting the second reason, Nuri said: "The traffic management was not informed even after the work had begun. If they [contractor] wanted to work, they should have informed the traffic police.”
Giving the third reason, he said, “The road was uneven when the accident occurred, so when the crane was being operated, one of its chains was on the upper part of the road and the other chain on the lower part. As a result, the crane became imbalanced. You all have seen that the crane was tilted to one side.”
“The number four reason is, according to the contractor's firm, due to the increased pressure of vehicles on the road in the afternoon, this car [involved in the accident] came very quickly, the crane operator suddenly lost control and the accident occurred. This is a preliminary observation.”
The authorities are trying to catch the crane operator who fled after the accident, he said, expressing hope that the operator’s statement may make things clearer.
He said the girder weighed 70 tonnes, while the crane has the capacity to carry 80 tonnes. Girders have been moved with that crane before. “So we need him [the operator] to figure out why the accident happened.”
Asked whether the operator had a licence, the secretary said, "Let's find him first, then will get to know whether he is our assigned one or any other driver."
Secretary Nuri said the contractor did not inform the consultant team as per the rules. “The contractor did the work itself. No subcontractor was appointed."
All the workers, barring the Bangladeshi crane operator, at the site during the accident were Chinese, according to the secretary. “It's the contractor's fault. It’s the crane operator’s failure as well.”
Nuri said the contractor, CGGC, may face fines, termination of contract, and be blacklisted so that they cannot get another work in Bangladesh. “Maximum action will be taken once the final report is received.”
He could not specify the amount of the fines for “such a huge loss”.
Enlarging on the negligence, the secretary said, "How many cranes will be used, how much area should be cordoned, how many people will be required, who will be involved in this work - these should be discussed with the consultant. They [CGGC] didn't do this yesterday. They did the work yesterday without taking any kind of safety measures.
“They said it was routine work, which it wasn’t by any means because the consultant must be informed before moving such a large segment. I didn't get a good answer initially as to why they didn't do it.”
Asked if any action was taken when such incidents had taken place in the past, Nuri said, without naming any firm: "We had terminated the contracts.”
He also said the government agencies overseeing the project may also face action. "No one can avoid responsibility. An investigation is not done in a day. Of course, there is scope to take action against the officials.”
He will also demand an explanation from the project director, supervisor and other officials.